The archival community struggles to fit in the private process of personal digital archiving. A common recommendation is to begin preservation far upstream, introducing archival practices early into the act of personal collection. But what may the archives best intentions introduce into the act of personal collection? Entering too early into the process may place undue influence on the decisions of the collector, the what gets kept and why? Active preservation of digital personal archives is necessary for ensuring the longevity of materials, but the archives community must be aware that this may alter the personal narratives that personal archives represent.
The need for continued preservation actions in digital archiving may represent a shift in the very nature of personal archiving. Whereas physical collections could be placed in the proverbial shoebox under the bed, the increased number of digital materials and their dispersal across numerous platforms means that the locating and identification of digital materials may be a vital new characteristic to personal archiving. This paper illuminates the paradox between the private act of personal archiving and the need for action or education from the archival community.
Studies on archives relation to personal digital archiving recommend various strategies for addressing this dilemma, including early identification and collection to basic educational resources. These strategies are valuable to the field, but reveal the complications inherent in the intrusion of archival structure on the unique process of personal archiving. This paper examines and the existing literature, critiquing the potential negative outcomes that organizational influence may have on the way an individual interacts with their personal archives. It will posit if and how archives professionals can ensure a digital process analogous to personal archiving techniques of physical materials, or if this is no longer a tenable approach to personal collection in the digital era.